Israeli anti-nuclear activists warn of potential disaster

Vigil at Tel Aviv Cinematheque to call for Dimona reactor to be inspected.

Against the backdrop of the 62nd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and in response to reports that a new nuclear power plant is planned for the Negev, Israeli opponents of nuclear energy will hold a vigil in front of the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv on Monday evening. The Israeli Committee for a Middle East Free from Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons, which is organizing the vigil, is calling for the German government to stop supplying nuclear submarines to Israel and for Israel to open the Dimona nuclear facility to international inspectors. Ultimately, the Committee wants to close down the Dimona facility in hopes of stopping the Middle East arms race that, according to group, Israel both started and led. The main purpose of the vigil is to raise the Israeli public's awareness of dangers that would potentially create a "Chernobyl-like disaster," Gidon Spiro, coordinator for the Committee for a Middle East Free from Atomic Weapons told The Jerusalem Post. Spiro's committee demands that Israel's nuclear program be held up to the same scrutiny as Iran's. "Israel's official position is 'we are not going to be the first to use nuclear weapons,' but we now know for sure that this position [of 'constructive ambiguity' relating to Israel's nuclear capability amounts to] lying to the citizens of the world... We cannot achieve a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East if Israel continues to be a nuclear power," he declared. While Spiro calls for Israel's denuclearization, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has evaded comment on whether or not plans to construct a new nuclear reactor that have been on and off the table for decades are underway. A spokesperson for Ben-Eliezer told the Post that the minister was "currently examining alternative [ways] to enhance electricity reserves." According to the spokesman, Ben-Eliezer was examining "non-conventional" ways of producing electricity. Although Ben-Eliezer did not clarify what sort of electricity production he was investigating, the Post reported last week that he had confirmed on July 31st that in the next few months, he would submit a plan to build a nuclear power plant in the Negev town of Shivta. In a speech to the Israel Electric Company's engineers union, Ben-Eliezer said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supported the plan. Today's vigil will also demand that the Negev Nuclear Research Center at Dimona disclose its method of storing the nuclear waste that Spiro estimates will remain radioactive for the next millennium. "Because everything in Israel is under a roof of security and secrecy, we have no idea how they're storing [it,]" explains Spiro, who responded unequivocally to the proposal for a new nuclear plant in the Negev. "It is a stupid act... a very irresponsible act," he said, pointing out that both the current facility in Dimona and the proposed plant would be sitting on the Syrian-African Rift, making them dangerously susceptible to earthquakes. Spiro holds out hope that Israel will be unable to build a nuclear reactor because of the state's refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. He suggests that if Israel indeed wishes to lessen dependence on foreign oil, it should invest in a resource available in copious amounts - the sun. "Develop clean solar energy - this is the future, and this should be the focus of our future energy," he said.